The Bulls have been, as expected, pretty mid to start this season. But what’s unexpected has been the various highs and lows, most recently a 2-win streak including a win over the top-tier Celtics followed by a back-to-back losses stretch over the weekend including a loss to the Spurs.
The second half of the weekend, a loss to the Sixers, was certainly not out of character: as we’re all (including the man himself) well-aware, Joel Embiid has never lost to the Bulls.
But that game did illustrate a trend that’s been happening through wins and losses all year: slow starts, fueled by opponent 3-point makes.
Old friend of the program Will Gottlieb broke this down at CHGO:
the 76ers shot 6-for-10 on three pointers in the first quarter and finished the first half 10-for-20. This after the Spurs opened the game 5-for-6 from deep, the Pacers went on a 7-for-8 stretch in the third quarter, the Celtics starting the game 8-for-9, the Cavs 5-for-6 and the Heat 6-for-8. That’s six of the Bulls first seven games where opponents have gone wild from deep.
The article - worth checking out in full, video clips! - goes into the coverages and personnel involved and determines this isn’t just streaky coincidence. Opponents overall are shooting over 43% on threes, which will have to go down by normal order of the NBA universe, but still reveals a lack of discipline and ability when it comes to their defense.
So outside of just saying, like, “hey, get better at this”, Billy Donovan can look to a lineup change. It’s been brewing all season given the precariousness of Patrick Williams’s establishment in the league, and now it’s not just Williams’s individual lack of productivity that can be brought into question, but the lineup performance overall:
“I think I have to look at that, I don’t think there’s any question. Obviously, it’s a small sample size with seven games. But we do have veterans in that lineup. I don’t want to throw them (under the bus). All of us, myself as a coach. We’ve got to figure something out to get off to a better start. We have to look at all those things.”
This looks to be plain as day that Williams is the one to get changed out, as he’s glaringly not the ‘veteran’.
But I suppose Ayo Dosunmu - who sat the Sixers game due to injury - could be swapped out for Alex Caruso as well. And though Dosunmu is a better defender than Williams, and specifically at the part identified as the first point of failure in stopping penetration, Caruso is a step up over nearly anyone he replaces in that category.
Javonte Green isn’t that great of a defender himself, but his shortcomings mostly come in being too aggressive and not fitting in the team concept. I think if they identified lack of competitiveness on the perimeter as the first symptom of these poor starts, Green will help in that regard by just getting his hands on shit:
Top 10 in the NBA in deflections. Notice anything interesting? pic.twitter.com/EiFENCHs6I— Will Gottlieb (@Will_Gottlieb) October 30, 2022